Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Denny Hamlin’s 2nd Daytona 500 Win & 2 First-Time Winners

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Denny Hamlin Scores Emotional Daytona 500 Win for Coach Gibbs, JGR Organization

Working with teammate Kyle Busch and surviving three major wrecks in the final 15 laps of competition, Denny Hamlin scored his second Daytona 500 victory Sunday in the Great American Race. Hamlin and Busch were followed by Erik Jones in a 1-2-3 podium sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing, the first time a team has accomplished that since Hendrick Motorsports in 1997.

While the win for Hamlin was a big start with a new crew chief following a winless 2018, it was arguably bigger for Coach Gibbs and the JGR organization, which won in the first points race since the death of J.D. Gibbs (it was J.D. who discovered Hamlin as a late model standout more than a decade ago). Coach Gibbs was visibly emotional in victory lane, calling it the most emotional victory in any sport he’s ever had.

NASCAR Race Weekend Central: Atlanta Motor Speedway Feb. 23 – 25

Hamlin’s victory capped a Daytona 500 with a feel-good story that was needed. Speedweeks until Sunday had been a putrid affair, with both the Clash and the Duels delivering underwhelming single-file racing. The 500 delivered a race with long stretches of side-by-side racing and pit strategy, until the final 15 laps turned the event into a demolition derby. – Bryan Davis Keith

NASCAR Xfinity Series: Michael Annett Wins in First Race in Boring Fashion

It’s always a cool story whenever a driver gets their first-career win. Michael Annett did just that on Saturday (Feb. 16) at Daytona. But the rest of the race? Probably the worst in Xfinity history.

After a lap 71 caution, Annett got off pit road first, ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier. From that point on, the No. 1 car paced a conga line around the top of the track, similar to what we’ve seen for the majority of Speedweeks.

Annett led a race-high 45 laps — more than his previous four full Xfinity seasons combined. He’s all but locked into the postseason, coming off a year that saw him miss the playoffs with arguably the best equipment.

For years, Annett has been the poster boy of buying a ride. He’s been knocked down, picked back up, then knocked down again. Even if it’s the only time he goes to Victory Lane in his career, the Iowa native earned the victory.

But the racing sucked. It’s almost as if the drivers were content with running third, fourth, fifth and beyond. The only ones putting a real effort toward the end of making any sort of maneuver were Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott, as the No. 8 was moving around for much of the race.

Maybe it’s a good thing this was the last pure restrictor plate race of its kind, as beginning at Talladega Superspeedway in April, NASCAR will implement a tapered spacer. Honestly, nothing can be worse than what was Daytona. – Dustin Albino

ALBINO: Xfinity Breakdown: Michael Annett Wins Lackluster Race at Daytona

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Hill Strikes With First Career Win

The Truck Series opened the 2019 season with a bang – literally – at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night. Just nine trucks were running when the checkered flag flew and Austin Hill scored his first career win in his debut race with the defending championship team, Hattori Racing Enterprises. But that’s not to say the victory was simply a matter of being lucky enough to survive the carnage of 11 cautions that slowed the field for half of the race. Hill led three times for 39 laps but was in the mix around the top five to 10 drivers throughout.

Meanwhile, Daytona was not kind at all to the rookie class. Natalie Decker’s series debut ended before it ever really began with a cut left front tire and a fire that took her out to a disappointing last-place finish after a single lap run. Tyler Dippel made it just 23 laps before he had to retire while his Young’s Motorsports teammate Gus Dean found himself in both Big Ones before he was knocked out after running 98 laps. With just 10 laps remaining, Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland went out on the same caution.

Sheldon Creed didn’t make any friends as he bounced around like a virtual wrecking ball throughout the field before being busted for locking bumpers with reigning champion Brett Moffitt. Creed was also caught up in both Big Ones and ended his race just two laps shy of the scheduled distance.

Race winner Hill walks away from Daytona with a three-point advantage over Grant Enfinger. Spencer Boyd, Stewart Friesen and Austin Wayne Self round out the top five heading into Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend for a Saturday afternoon doubleheader with the Xfinity Series. – Beth Lunkenheimer

2019 Truck Series Team Chart

Sports Cars: One11 Competition Enters Blancpain GT World Challenge America

The offseason has generally been pretty quiet for Blancpain GT World Challenge America (formerly known as Pirelli World Challenge GT).  Only in the past few weeks have lineups been finalized and announced.

For the most part, the teams confirmed to participate in the newly revamped series are a mix of teams that raced last year in Pirelli World Challenge or teams like Wright Motorsports that have moved over from IMSA.  They are being joined by a completely new operation.

On Friday (Feb. 15), One11 Competition announced that they will make the move up from Ferrari Challenge competition to race two Ferrari 488 GT3s full-time in Blancpain GT World Challenge America in 2019.  One car (No. 99) will race in the Pro-Am division and be shared by multiple-time IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge champion Matt Plumb and former Ferrari Challenge regular Alfred Caiola, who anted up to purchase one of the cars.  The No. 19 Ferrari will race in the Am division and will be shared by Chris Cagnazzi and Brian Kaminskey.

The Blancpain GT World Challenge America season starts in less than two weeks at Circuit of the Americas.  The GT racers will be joined by GT4 America SprintX competitors, the regional GT4 East and GT4 West series, and the TC America classes. – Phil Allaway

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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